Travel Tips: Avoiding Extra Rental Car Charges

Before you book your next rental car, keep these tips in mind to save unnecessary costs ?

Credit: Flickr/Brenderous

Rental car employees will try to upsell you on unnecessary charges

They’re the little secrets that car rental companies don’t want you to know. Now it’s time to dish the dirt — and hopefully help you make more informed decisions the next time you need to rent a vehicle

The biggest thing many people don’t realize is that most car rental employees have been given the task of selling you something. Car rental is not a service industry, but a sales industry. And just like anyone else who works on commission, the person behind the counter is held to account by numbers.

Avoiding Extra Car Rental Charges

Once you have this in mind, here are some tips to help you avoid unnecessary charges and fees:

  • Always inspect the car with an employee before signing anything. Don’t let the salesperson tell you the inspection has already been done. Car rental offices should have a vehicle inspection form that you sign before the car leaves the lot. This limits the possibility that you’ll be blamed for damage you didn’t cause.

  • Off-airport locations are generally cheaper than rental agencies at the airport. The vehicles at airport locations typically cost more because of airport fees, which cover the agency’s rental and transportation costs. Compare rates before booking and you’ll likely find it’s worthwhile to book offsite.

  • Rental agencies charge an astronomical rate if they have to fill up the tank for you upon return, often three to four times the price of fuel at a regular gas station. By not filling up yourself, you could tack on an extra $20 to $40 to your bill.

  • Declining the insurance offered by car rental companies is always the best option. When you’re at the counter, it’s easy to cave to pressure, but don’t do it! It’s very likely your auto insurance policy covers rentals as well. You might also have coverage through your credit card. Double-check by calling your auto insurance or credit card agent before you leave home.

  • And finally, timing is everything. The largest expense incurred by a car rental company is depreciation. If they have cars not in use, they’re literally losing money. If you show up after a busy holiday weekend, when a bunch of cars are sitting idle, you can more or less name your price for a rental.

Just a few things to keep in mind before you book!

Watch Claire Newell on Global BC News: Final (Mon.), Early (Wed.), Morning & Noon (Thur.), Noon (Sat.). Or catch her Tuesdays at 8:30 a.m. on Shore 104 FM.

Originally published in TV Week. For daily updates, subscribe to the free TV Week e-newsletter, or purchase a subscription to the weekly magazine.